MEEKER I The Blanco Ranger District of the White River National Forest plans to conduct a prescribed burn in the Aldrich Lakes area, a 1,200-acre area roughly 19 miles northeast of Meeker and 19 miles south of Craig on National Forest system lands and adjoining private lands in Rio Blanco County.
Officials anticipate that this burn may take one to two days to accomplish.
Exact dates will depend on the weather and availability of the required prescribed fire resources to safely and efficiently complete the prescribed burn operations. Target dates include this week through Oct. 9 as the USFS is trying to avoid as much conflict as possible with hunters in the Aldrich Lakes area.
Prescribed fire will improve wildlife habitat by stimulating new and more nutritious plant production in the burned area. Officials expect the fire pattern will leave a patchwork of burned and unburned areas, providing wildlife with better areas to feed while leaving enough vegetation to provide cover.
Due to past suppression efforts, fire has been absent from this area for a number of years, resulting in a large buildup of fuel. This burn will decrease that fuel load and help reduce the potential of a wildfire by targeting Gamble’s oak and mountain shrub species.
“The ultimate goal is to provide the best habitat conditions for wildlife,” said Area Wildlife Manager Bill de Vergie of Meeker. “The Forest Service has made attempts to work around the hunting seasons, but we understand that this may affect some hunters. We remind everyone that although it might be an inconvenience now, the long-term benefits include healthier wildlife and better hunting in the future.”
According to Toni Toelle, the zone fuels specialist for the White River National Forest, “Our plans are to start this burn only if we can do so safely and effectively.” She went on to explain that this burn is a follow-up treatment to past mechanical fuels reduction work in the Aldrich Lakes area.
“Burning will help to clean up the old mechanically treated fuels and stimulate a mosaic pattern of new growth in the mixed mountain shrub species,” she said. “This project is part of a landscape scale treatment effort in the Milk Creek drainage, and to date, approximately 3,500 acres have been effectively treated.”
Smoke from burning may be visible from various locations around the Meeker and Craig areas. Most of the smoke will dissipate during the day; however some night-time smoke may remain in valley bottoms and drainages as temperatures drop. This is only expected to be a short-term occurrence.
Anyone with health conditions that may be affected by short durations of smoke should contact Toni Toelle at 970-620-2479. Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. For more information, see www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.
This prescribed fire is in partnership with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, local Craig and Meeker chapters of the Habitat Partnership Program and local private land owners.
For more information please contact the Blanco Ranger District office at 970-878-4039.